He leaned down to look me in the eyes and calmly shared his anguish over a personal matter involving a child, a custody battle, and a broken home that had been visited by violence.
I don't know my student's religious beliefs and he doesn't know mine. But I felt immediately a sense of peace about this difficult situation because of the answer to Question 108 of the Baltimore Catechism, What is hope? "Hope is a Divine virtue by which we firmly trust God will give us eternal life and the means to obtain it." My personal addendum is: Hope is also a Divine virtue by which we firmly trust God will guide us through hardships on our earthly journey.
Whenever someone shares their difficulties with me, my first thought is: I need to be the face of Christ for this person. Yesterday I discovered something else about this kind of encounter.
Before I responded, what flashed through my head was this: I've taught this man for a year now. He's in his thirties and a war veteran. He's had his share of heartbreak and hard times, some of which I have read about in essays he has shared with me and the class. School was not always a place where he experienced success. He has no shame or embarasssment about some of the messier details of his earlier life, nor should he.
I asked him a few follow-up questions and then I told him, "It's going to be all right." Commuting home, I mulled our encounter. It's easy to imagine that I am the face of Christ to this man in distress. But had I ever considered that he was the face of a suffering Christ to me? He needed to tell me that he was aching because of the brokenness of the world. And I needed to offer him hope.
So now I pray for this child my student is so worried about.
We beseech You, O Lord, visit this home and drive far from it all the snares of the enemy; let Your holy angels dwell therein so as to preserve the family in peace; and let Your blessing be always upon them. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.